A gathering of medical professionals capitalized on a weekend event in Birmingham to host a clinic to help an Irondale community.
Baptist Nursing Fellowship held its annual summit Nov. 5–7 at the national Woman’s Missionary Union office in Birmingham.
Physical, spiritual impact
Using the two-year theme, “Touch Twice in Jesus’ Name” — highlighting both the physical and spiritual impact Christian medical professionals can make — the event drew 47 registrants from across the country.
“As a Christian, I love the people that God made and that God loves,” said Gretchen Schuttger, a nurse from Austin, Texas, attending her first BNF summit.
Being a nurse allows her to meet the theme’s emphasis on both physical and spiritual levels, she noted.
Schuttger’s grandmother told her the medical calling started when she was just three years old, but she remembers it more clearly as a teenager. Even then, “it wasn’t really until I got to nursing school that I realized how passionate I was.”
Cindy Lowman remembered taking a parish nursing course through BNF when she lived in Alabama.
“It’s a way to fellowship with other nurses who are like-minded in faith,” said Lowman, who now lives in Saint Amant, Louisiana.
Part of the draw of BNF is medical missions trips. Claudia Hayes of Hillmon Grove Baptist Church in Cameron, North Carolina, listed several countries — Guatemala, Honduras, Brazil, Armenia, South Africa — and several places in the United States where nursing has taken her.
“I like being involved with Christian nurses who support each other and who focus on the compassion Jesus offers to those in need of health care,” she said.
Honoring a leader
The gathering included a brick-laying ceremony in memory of Lori Spikes, BNF’s former executive director/treasurer, who died Nov. 21, 2020, after being hospitalized with COVID-19. The ceremony included Debby Akerman, a BNF member and former national WMU president; David George, president of the WMU Foundation; Marilyn Graves, who was installed over the weekend as new executive director/treasurer; Charolette Rock, BNF president-elect; Jim Spikes, husband to Lori and former missionary to Chile; and Sandy Wisdom-Martin, national WMU executive director-treasurer. Other officers include: Deborah Bolian, president; Hayes, student liaison; Benita Decker, communications; Charlotte Wyckoff, missions and prayer; Pam Allsbrook, education chair; and Judy Dillow, resource development. Akerman will stay on in an advisory capacity.
“Lori always faced tomorrow with a smile,” Akerman said during the ceremony.
In speaking of his wife, Spikes said she first started caring for her father, who was an invalid, when she was a child.
“That’s where she discovered her vocation,” Spikes noted.
He spoke of her willingness to serve many times in the shadows, especially when on the missions field. He took “great joy in seeing her come back to the United States” and blossom as part of BNF, an organization he said fulfilled and excited her.
While BNF was started in 1985 exclusively for nurses, membership now is open to others: first responders, pharmacists, social workers, etc.
Two of Lori and Jim’s daughters also attended, Amanda Johnson and Allyn Farmer, both of Germantown, Tennessee. They have another sister, Andrea Spikes; and there are five grandchildren.
To close out the last day of the summit, BNF joined with Iglesia Agape to offer a medical clinic to more than 40 patients in Irondale.
“We always have a missions component” to the annual event, Graves noted.
Pastor Pablo Moscoso was excited about the opportunity to minister to some of his congregation as well as the community. Several church members helped with the clinic along with BNF volunteers and a screening team from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
He reported two salvation decisions as a result.
Following in her footsteps
Graves, who teaches nursing at Central College in Lynchburg, Virginia, served with Spikeses in Chile. Taking on the new leadership role and following in her friend’s footsteps is a “tremendous honor” and a “great responsibility.”
Graves said she wants BNF to be the first thought when considering medical missions. COVID-19 spoiled plans for efforts in 2020–21, but she said a trip to Ukraine is planned for 2022, and she would like to return to Thailand where they volunteered two years ago. BNF is planning domestic trips as well and hoping for partners for all its missions endeavors.